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We think in this particular case, as I said, that there is an argument to be made as the Secretary of State has made, and as the President has made, for leaving them with flexibility to address a complex, fast-moving situation in the Middle East; and to use the tools they already have available, which include sanctions, rather than put them in a very narrow strait jacket as far as sanctions are concerned, as this bill would do. So despite the enlightening debate, we continue to oppose the bill, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Now we are going to give the last word to Mr. Saadi, but before I give it to him, just remember all those compliments about the Committee really are to Ben Gilman, who has done a terrific job here over the years, and I just want to reiterate that. Mr. Saadi?
Mr. SAADI. Mr. Chairman, two points. As far as sanctions are concerned, the good thing about the bill is that it provides a road map for Syria to have the sanctions removed. But more importantly, Mr. Chairman, I have to take issue, respectfully, with your characterization of the Lebanese bloodshed. It seems you and I have a completely different understanding of the history of the conflict.
The bloodshed was rarely between Lebanese-Lebanese. It started out as Palestinian-Lebanese, then Palestinian-Syrian against Lebanese. Then Iranian and extremist fundamentalists against Lebanese and then finally, Syrian-Lebanese war. Then when Syria took all of Lebanon, sure, the bloodshed stopped.
One very important point, in Lebanon today, it's much different than in Yugoslavia or Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Lebanon today, a Lebanese, generally speaking, can go anywhere-north, south, east, west and is not afraid of having to be attacked by his fellow Lebanese. If the war was so bad among Lebanese, with so much bloodshed, how could that be true today? Thank you.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Point well made. Now I said you would have the last word, but I think Mr. Engel has something he needs to say. The Chair is going to use it's prerogative to take that back, and Mr. Engel has the last word.
Mr. ENGEL. I thank my friend, and I thank him for his courtesies.
I just wanted to point out in the other body, the Senate, we have a bipartisan companion bill sponsored by Senators Boxer and Santorum.
The Chairman mentioned the Marines in Lebanon, and I couldn't agree more with what he said. I just wanted to read a letter that was sent to Majority Leader Armey and myself by a mother of one the young men, our Marines, who was killed in Lebanon.
This is what she writes. It's Mrs. Judith Young from Morristown, New Jersey. She writes,
“Dear Congressman Armey/Dear Congressman Engel: I am writing to express my support for H.R. 4483, the Syrian Accountability Act of 2002. When a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with 12,000 pounds of explosives into the Marine barracks, my son, Sergeant Jeffrey D. Young, USMC, was one of the 241 servicemen killed on October 23, 1983.
“Hezbollah claimed responsibility. Today, Hezbollah, one of several terrorist groups harbored and support by Syria remains one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world. Although Syria is prominently placed on the State Department's terrorism list, it is subject to fewer U.S. sanctions than any other country identified as a state-sponsor of terrorism.
“President Bush warned countries to make a decision on terrorism, either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. And Syria is not with the United States. I urge you to support H.R. 4483, and hold Syria accountable for their terrorist activities. I also deplore the abduction, detention, and transfer of Lebanese citizens to Syria without disclosing their fate and whereabouts as a blatant violation to international continent on Civil and Political Rights of 1966.
"I have personally met the parents of a 17-year old boy taken by the Syrians in Lebanon 12 years ago. They have no idea when they will ever see him again. Yours truly, Judith C.
Young." I think that I will let Mrs. Young's words be the last words. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. By unanimous consent, the record will remain open for the insertion of materials at request of the Members of this Subcommittee. It will remain open for 2 weeks and with that said, I would like to thank the witnesses. This has been a very, very thought-provoking hearing and a very good debate for all of us and for the people of our country.
This hearing is now adjourned. (Whereupon, at 12:42 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
MATERIAL SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING RECORD
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE DAVID SATTERFIELD, DEPUTY ASSISTANT
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS Thank you, Chairman Gilman. And thank you to all the Members of the Committee for giving me this opportunity to discuss our bilateral relationship with Syria and the potential effect on this relationship of HR 4483.
Mr. Chairman, let me begin by stating that we are in full agreement with the goals underlying this bill. No one is more concerned about Syria's support for terrorism than the President. These concerns are a matter of record and are why Syria has long been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and subject to numerous sanctions. We also put a high priority on ending Syria's illicit trade with Iraq, putting a stop to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly by state sponsors of terrorism, and seeing an independent Lebanon that is free of all foreign forces, including Syrian, and exercises sovereignty over its territory.
Of concern to our discussions today is what approach most effectively advances the wide range of U.S. interests in the region, including a very important prioritythe security of our close friend, Israel. The President and the Secretary are in the middle of an extremely sensitive effort to stop the Arab-Israeli violence, avoid the outbreak of regional war, and help the parties back on a path to comprehensive peace. If our efforts on both comprehensive peace and the war against terrorism are to succeed, the President and the Secretary will need flexibility to determine what combination of incentives and disincentives will maximize cooperation and advance our goals. This is equally true as we look ahead to the range of options before us on Iraq.
For this reason, we do not believe this is the right time for legislative initiatives that could complicate or even undermine our efforts. The imposition of new sanctions on Syria would severely limit our ability to address a range of important issues directly with the highest levels of the Syrian government. It would also render more difficult our efforts to change Syrian behavior and avoid a dangerous escalation of violence in the region. Of particular importance is our ability to deliver clear messages to the Syrian leadership in order to avert further escalation along the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon.
In addition, the President has taken note of Syria's cooperation in our struggle against al-Qaida. Syria's cooperation in this regard has been substantial and has helped save American lives. Šuch cooperation is very much in the U.S. interest and requires high-level, sustained engagement with the Syrian government. At the same time, the President and the Secretary, most recently during the latter's visit to Damascus last April, have made clear that more is expected of Syria, and that Syria's support and safe haven for other terrorist groups must end. The Secretary will reiterate this message in his meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister next week in New York.
For the moment, we believe that carefully calibrated engagement with Syria, combined with the very tough sanctions already in place, will be more effective to advance our dealing with the threat from Iraq. While we are in full agreement with the underlying goals of HR 4483, we do not believe that the proposed bill provides the best mechanism for achieving these goals. Imposing the new sanctions regime envisioned by the Syria Accountability Act would limit our options and restrict our ability to deal with a difficult and dangerous regional situation at a particularly critical time. For this reason, we ask that your Committee work to strengthen the hand of the President and Secretary as they seek to lead the region away from violence and towards peace, and not move forward on this bill at this time.
Thank you very much. I'd be please to take your questions.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE DARRELL E. ISSA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA Thank you Mr. Chairman. I will be brief. I'm glad this bill has been brought before the Committee so we can begin to address some of confusion surrounding it. There are a whole host of popular misconceptions surrounding this bill. The biggest of these is that this bill will somehow give the President the "tools” he supposedly needs to take a hard line against Syria. This idea is ridiculous. The President already has the authority to impose sanctions on Syria under the Export Administration Act and the Foreign Assistance Act. Indeed, most of the sanctions that are written into this bill are already in place because Syria is classified by our government as a state sponsor of terror. This bill would require the President to act on new sanctions—it wouldn't just allow him, or give him the “tools” to act as some have erroneously claimed.
The simple fact is that our relationship with Syria is complicated—it will not be improved, either in the long run or short run, by a sweeping sanctions regime. On the one hand Syria has provided us with some critical intelligence on Al-Qaeda and has fully supported our efforts in Afghanistan. On the other hand Syria has failed to stop supporting anti-Israeli terrorist groups like Hezbollah, the PFLP, and Hamas. On the one hand, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has expressed interest in opening up, joining the WTO, and cooperating with the United States. On the other hand, Syria continues to import Iraqi oil outside the UN oil-for-food program.
There seem to be two Syria's-one that is cooperative and strategically important, one that is belligerent and unhelpful. This relationship obviously requires balanced and careful diplomacy with use of both the carrot and stick: it requires flexibility. This sanctions bill would completely eliminate the flexibility the President already has to deal with Syria. It would force the President to sanction Syria even more than it already is. It would force the President to downgrade diplomatic relations, destroying the progress we have made with the young Syrian President, and eliminating the minimal leverage we already have over Syria. There is no reason for Congress to weigh in with a heavy-handed policy change at this time, particularly as we prepare for action on Iraq.
I will be the first to say that many of Syria's actions are deeply troubling. These should not be ignored. However, there is an on-going dialogue between Congress and the Syrian leadership that has opened up over the past year, and there is a standing invitation from President Assad to all Members who are interested in continuing this dialogue. I would urge my colleagues to take the time, travel to the region, hear from our Ambassador, our diplomats, and the Syrian leadership, and then draw your own conclusions on what direction we should take. We can always bring this bill to the floor in the future if conditions warrant it. But we should not force it through Congress now, thereby tying the President's hands during this critical time in the war on terror and pending action on Iraq.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ROBERT WEXLER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA Mr. Chairman,
Thank you for holding this important hearing concerning the Syria Accountability Act. Today I join my colleagues in expressing my profound concern for Syria's continued support of terror, occupation of Lebanon, development of weapons of mass destruction and enhanced strategic relationship with Iraq. These developments threaten to undermine the security of the United States, our success in the war against terror and the stability of the entire Middle East. It is in this regard that I believe the Congress must take immediate steps to address Syria's violations of international law by supporting and passing the Syria Accountability Act.
Despite hope that Bashar Assad would bring forth a new policy of moderation following the death of his father, he has only increased Syria's contempt for the United States, hostility toward Israel and support of international terror. Not only has Bashar Assad continued the oppressive policies of his late father, but he has demonstrated a insatiable propensity for feeding the flames of incitement and terror that threaten to engulf the entire Middle East.
Even though Syria remains listed by the State Department as an official state sponsor of terror, fewer U.S. sanctions apply to Syria than any other country on this list. This is unconscionable, considering that Syria supports or harbors more terrorist organizations than any other country in the world, including Hizbollah